If you’ve spent any time on online dating apps within the last few years, chances are that you’ve taken to Bumble to find your match at some point.
When it hit app stores across the globe in December of 2014, users were drawn in by the app’s signature feature – that it’s down to women to make the first move.
It’s an idea that seems novel in any case, but especially appropriate to those who know the backstory behind why Whitney Wolfe Herd – the app’s founder and CEO – designed the app in the first place.
Whitney Wolfe Herd was just 22 when she joined the development team for an exciting new app, designed to revolutionise online dating for the smartphone generation. The app in question? Tinder – a now globally recognised name, and one that Whitney herself came up with.
Tinder opened to users in September 2012 and it didn’t take long to catch fire around the world, garnering millions of users within its first year of release. Whitney was the vice president of Tinder’s marketing department, which no doubt means that much of its success – specifically its initial success throughout America’s college campuses – could be attributed to her. As Tinder began to sweep the globe, Whitney was truly a core part of a business that succeeded in its ambitions to change the game when it came to the world of online dating.
However, all wasn’t quite as well as it seemed.
In June 2014, Whitney came forward to allege that she had been subjected to years of sexual harassment and verbal abuse at the hands of her former boyfriend and the founder of Tinder, Justin Mateen. Her accusations detailed incidents in which Mateen had sent threatening and derogatory text messages, referring to Wolfe Herd as a ‘gold digger’ and a ‘whore’. As a result, she set out to seek legal compensation, suing Mateen and Tinder for sexual harassment – a lawsuit that led to Mateen’s resignation and was eventually settled to the tune of $1,000,000.
Despite her accusations being validated in court, Whitney still found herself subject to abuse online in the aftermath.
“I was being told the ugliest things by complete strangers,” she told Forbes, “I wasn’t trying to run for office. I wasn’t trying to be on a reality show. I was just a girl who left somewhere.”
It’s a story that Whitney seems to have in common with thousands of other women across the world who have come forward with their own accusations regarding high-profile men – however, Whitney refused to take the trolling lying down.
Fuelled by this, she began formulating a dating app of her very own – one which, with the aim of lessening the harassment and verbal abuse that women receive through dating apps, gave women the power to make the first move.
In order to make it happen, Whitney teamed up with Andrey Andreev, the founder of Badoo – the world’s current largest dating network – who had been impressed by Whitney and was keeping a close eye on her, stating that he ‘fell in love’ with her passion and energy. Initially, he had offered her a top-level position at Badoo – one that, determined to press forward with her own idea, she quickly refused.
However, her refusal didn’t quell Andrey’s beliefs in Whitney’s business potential – if anything, it fuelled it. He offered to invest $10,000,000 in her venture.
After several months in the development stages, Bumble was born – just a year later, the app had reached 80 million matches and 15 million conversations worldwide. Two years later, Bumble’s userbase hit the incredible milestone of 22 million global users.
It goes without saying that this is an incredible achievement, but is even more impressive once you consider that around 90% of all online dating start-ups fail – it is, after all, a highly saturated market. However, Whitney Wolfe Herd was armed with determination, intelligence and an exciting new idea that made her own venture stand out amongst this heavily populated online crowd.
Whitney has previously compared the Bumble matching process to the pumpkin carriage in the story of Cinderella, in the sense that, if women do not make a move on matches within the first 24 hours, the match disappears. It was this aspect of the app that made it so incredibly different to others on the market.
In the years since, Bumble – and Whitney herself, of course – has gone from strength to strength. As of 2020, Bumble has over 100 million paid subscribers worldwide, with paid subscriptions allowing users to extend the time limit on matches, view all users who have right-swiped (liked) their profile and rematch with expired connections, amongst other things.
This success is reflected brilliantly in Bumble’s Austin, Texas, headquarters, where 85% of the companies employees are, fittingly, female. The office building is decorated throughout in the app’s signature yellow palette, with signs around the workspace reading ‘Make The First Move’, ‘You’re A Queen Bee’ and ‘Be The CEO That Your Parents Always Wanted You To Marry’.
As for her love life – something which one can’t help but wonder about when it comes to those who have revolutionised online dating for so many others – Whitney is now happily married to oil heir Michael Herd, with whom she shares a young son.
As with any industry, it’s impossible to predict what the online dating space will look like in ten, or even five, years from now. However, one thing is for sure – when it comes to the world of online dating, Whitney Wolfe Herd is undisputably Queen Bee.
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